Popular Essays – 2017


Edinburgh’s George Street, a rag-bag of garish fairground lights and elf stalls

Edinburgh’s George Street festive illuminations are attractive from a distance, a bit of a disappointment close up, like the promises made by Scotland’s opponents.

A year of marking time

To my mind the funniest political episode this year was the stramash over Alex Salmond selling his political chat show to Russian Television. To the rabid right-wing press, the political crime of the decade is Russian Television’s propaganda aimed at our society. (The accusation is, of course, British propaganda.) The effects of the crime are undetectable, unlike the massive effects of interference by corporate power and private wealth in government policy and taxation, not considered a crime, merely the normal workings of democracy.

Scunnered at puerile press speculation of Nicola Sturgeon ‘shelving’ a second plebiscite on Scotland’s future, or only ‘delaying’ it, “I mostly” concentrated on emphasising how much Scotland’s economy and daily life remain a depressing post colonial existence. I didn’t plan essays that way. They evolved. The more I researched British colonialism the more it became neo-colonialism; comparisons grew and grew. It got to the point I could lift almost any callous remark from a Tory or Labour politician and find its doppelganger in one spoken to Hindus under British rule.

Corporate power rules – okay?

Add to all that the corporate strangulation of European influence and tax regulation and our impotence to stop unalloyed greed, and you have a model of Scotland as a colony in the 21st century. To hear thumping mediocre unionists with connections to big business sitting in Scotland’s Parliament doing their very best every day to tighten that deathly grip, envisages the Wicker Man bringing firelighters to the pagan ceremony.

When the sun is shining, you’ve a full belly, enough money to buy a pint and see the match, repeatedly told self-reliance is bad for Scotland’s health and your children’s future, you won’t perceive you live in a politically undernourished society. You become blind and deaf to what you don’t have.

The opposition in Holyrood sucks, but suction kills

People might agree some of Holyrood’s opposition MSPs are poor value for money, but the same are slow turning frowns into vigorous resistance against a proliferation of fifth columnists accessing Parliament. I can’t find their equivalent in England, thousands of Scots beavering away to undermine England’s self-esteem and steal its wealth.

There were weekends it was a relief to write about the car industry or publish a humorous film review, so enraging is Westminster’s hold on Scotland’s maturity.

The top ten essays read and reread this year

Here are the top ten essays this year to the nearest half-thousand, with a link for readers.

  1. Dear JK Rowling 16,000…………………. https://wp.me/p4fd9j-sB
  2. Paging BBC Scotland 10,000………….. https://wp.me/p4fd9j-kUW
  3. My Country to Govern 8,500…………. https://wp.me/p4fd9j-f9U
  4. The SNP’s Achievements 7,000…….. https://wp.me/p4fd9j-63x
  5. Scotland – A British Colony 7,000… https://wp.me/p4fd9j-mcb
  6. Rock Star Sturgeon 7,000……………..  https://wp.me/p4fd9j-bwJ
  7. England the Oil Thief 6,000………….. https://wp.me/p4fd9j-fg7
  8. England’s Neo-Colonialism 5,000… https://wp.me/p4fd9j-iD0
  9. Catalonia – Then and Now 4,000….. https://wp.me/p4fd9j-kOl
  10. Debeaking Wings 3,500…………………. https://wp.me/p4fd9j-jpC

Readers pull favourites out of the archives regularly, The Infamous Ledger, Torrance the Terrible and A History of Brief Time, are three perennials, the last my thanks to Scotland’s elderly, septuagenarians and octogenarians who voted to reinstate autonomy. Some reactivated essays I’d forgotten I’d written, some I’d prefer to rewrite.

Some days I want to bar the door and stay at home

I have no idea what 2018 will bring, but I know there is more fear in the world that last year, thanks to Trump, May, Spain’s Rajoy, and Scotland’s chronic inability to have confidence in itself. But here’s to 2018 just the same.

This year 2017 Finland celebrated 100 years of independence – and no ill effects!


Wish it was Scotland


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4 Responses to Popular Essays – 2017

  1. Hugh Wallace says:

    Thank you for all of your wonderful essays, GB. I read them all (well, maybe not all the car & film ones but quite a few of them too). I look forward to reading your insightful words in 2018!


  2. Grouse Beater says:

    I appreciate your appreciation, Hugh. I hope they do our cause some good. Thanks again.

  3. angusskye says:

    More power to your pen, or keyboard, GB.

    I read them all – including the car ones to my surprise – as I also find them interesting. However, it’s your political writing that I really look forward to as it is always a bit different and always thought-provoking.

    Here’s to 2018 and another year in our “interesting times”.

    Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Math Ur.

  4. Grouse Beater says:

    I used to write for a few UK car magazines, a high quality Jaguar one by far the best most literate and without a trace of the right-wing bias of Heseltine’s rags. But that closed some months back. The others quote from right-wing think tanks forgetting to tell us how flaky is the information they purvey. And their in-house staff still think the fall of the British car industry last century was the sole blame of its ‘red’ workers, not unreliable cars designed that way.

    I love writing with a pen, a good quality ink pen, but my hand writing is seriously crap. (The worst alcoholic writer I know writes in the most beautiful Georgian script imaginable!) I’ve been keeping a journal of moments about my two daughters, what they did, what they said, but I don’t think they will be able to decipher a thing I’ve written when I’m gone.

    Thank you for the good will. Same to you for next year.

    Slàinte mhath!

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